Steroids expert and Penn State prof Charles Yesalis, and "Game of Shadows" authors Lance Williams & Mark Fainaru-Wada shared a stage in State College PA to discuss steroids and PEDs. Report here (Pittsburgh and Tribune-Review) here(PSU Collegian), and here (personal blog). In a startling statement Dr. Yesalis stated that 90-95% of NFL players used HGH (and PEDs).
Authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, whose 2006 book "Game of Shadows" exposed baseball's steroids problem, and two Penn State professors spent two hours probing the issue. Rules of the legal, moral and ethical kind have been broken by steroid-users, yet two years after the book's publication, and with steroid-use revelations continuing in baseball and other sports, there are those who don't even consider using performance-enhancing drugs as cheating.
"It is unquestionably cheating," Fainaru-Wada said, addressing the competitive question. "They are banned for a reason. They work."
Interesting observations that fans under-4o don't consider the use of PEDs as 'cheating'.
"The notion of an athlete breaking the law is problematic -- at least to some people," he (Fainaru-Wada) said.
"Some" is the operative word in that statement, according to Penn State professor Dr. Charles Yesalis, an expert on performance-enhancing drugs.
"I've seen numerous fans say, 'I don't care. I just want to be entertained,' " Dr. Yesalis said. "I've talked to a lot of young people. They aren't bent out of shape about this.
"I think in the under-40 crowd, it's strictly entertainment, and if they use drugs to make it more entertaining, whatever."
(more after the jump)
Lance Williams addressed fan reaction to drug charges:
"There's tremendous fan resistance to hearing your local star player is a drug cheat.," Williams said.
Mostly now, the critics have taken a tack of denying the significance of steroid-abuse, or questioning whether using performance-enhancing drugs should be banned at all.
Sports are right to ban the drugs, Williams said, because of, "the way they punt the performance standards way out of the ballpark, to mix sports metaphors."
Williams continued, "Baseball is at its peril if it thinks it can shine the fans on without addressing the problem."
How about drug testing?
Baseball and other sports, both professional and amateur, trumpet their drug-testing programs as proof that steroids abuse is being eliminated, but Dr. Yesalis disputed those claims.
"It's a facade," he said. "If you're really stupid, you'll flunk ( a drug test). Those people who are not really stupid, don't. Even at the collegiate level, I've heard anecdotes that very promising people can get help to make sure they don't flunk their drug tests."
The Collegian reports on part of the moral problem of steroid use:
"A player should not be required to make this so-called 'deal with the devil,' " Fainaru-Wada said. "[A player] shouldn't have to decide whether to take this array of performance enhancing drugs that conceivably could impact him physically simply because he wants to compete at this level."
The panel agreed the main reason steroids are such a prevalent problem is because they work.
Yesalis spoke about his experience as a former strength coach, explaining that once the body reaches a certain size, its almost impossible to add much more than three or four pounds of muscle per year. But steroids, he said, can "take you places you never could naturally."
Fainaru-Wada and Yesalis dropped some bombs:
While the journalists' efforts have sparked countless federal investigations into the use of steroids in baseball, Fainaru-Wada said other sports have done very little, even turning a "blind eye" to the problem.
He cited the National Football League's astute public relations tactics as reason why the league "skated on the issue."
"You look at these guys, these are not the normal human beings that we all coexist with. Some 300-pound guy running a 4.4 in the 40 is not normal," Fainaru-Wada said.
"There's a societal sort of acceptance that the NFL is a different animal and there's not as much of a push on that."
While the panel agreed the NFL has avoided major problems thus far, Yesalis said that the NCAA has been the luckiest group of them all.
He cited his personal experiences and the similarities between the sizes of college and professional offensive lines as support for his opinion.
"I've personally briefed the chief councils that have had [NCAA drug testing] hearings and they know the loopholes in the NCAA drug-testing program," Yesalis said. "They aren't going to touch that with a 10-foot poker."
While the panel agreed steroids are a problem, they attempted to debunk society's perceptions of steroid use.
Much of the public believes only a few athletes in each league are juicing, Yesalis said. But he said the reality is that it's a far more rampant problem than most believe, adding he estimates 90-to-95 percent of NFL players are using human growth hormone.
And the Tour de France:
(Yesalis) "There's a significant number of sports where there's only a few good apples in the barrel and you ain't never heard of them because they're not winning," Yesalis said. "I find it inconceivable that you could win the Tour de France anytime, ever, without drugs. "These drugs work so dramatically well. I just simply cannot tell you how we have so many big athletes."